“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus on the cross (Mk 15:34, Mt 27:46)
 The idea of God forsaking us is a very disturbing thought. For many people, the thought is expressed in the famous question of theodicy: “Why would a good and loving God let suffering happen?” or similarly, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” These are questions that tend to bring more struggles than answers. Often, these questions are addressed to religious leaders. If, for example, a person in the congregation has a spiritual crisis, that individual will likely turn to the pastor for guidance. The assumption, of course, is that the pastor can help because the pastor has these spiritual concerns figured out and the parishioner does not. This is like viewing the pastor as a plumber. If your pipes are broken, you go to someone who has been trained to fix them, not to someone who can’t even fix his or her own broken pipes. This is also like saying, “Doctor, heal thyself.” The assumption is that somehow “the pastor” must be immune to experiencing spiritual struggles – or, if they ever happened, they happened in the past before the pastor became this professionally trained religious leader.
 We seem to have a strong tendency to assume our religious leaders have no spiritual struggles of their own. They are called (perhaps even formally called) to serve people as Jesus did. Yet, christological questions aside, even Jesus experienced God’s absence, as his cry from the cross, quoted above, demonstrates. For those who serve in Jesus’ name, that can be a reassuring thought. However, for those who seek help from these Christian religious leaders, it might be a bit unsettling to realize that they too sometimes question God. However, perhaps it would offer some comfort to know that these leaders are human too and struggle with many of the same kinds of problems.
 In this paper, I argue that the spiritual despair of our religious leaders is beneficial both to them and to those whom they serve. When the pastor struggles, it does not have to plunge the parishioner into deeper despair. Rather, it could be encouraging because it illustrates that all types of callings by God come with doubts and struggles. The questioning does not negate the call (regardless of the type of call – “professional” or “voluntary”) and doubt does not prove the person is incapable of following the call. In short, just because you are called, that does not exclude you from experiencing spiritual darkness. In what follows I will use three case studies of well-known Christian figures to show how the spiritual struggles of religious leaders can serve as inspiration for others. I will examine how, even though these spiritual leaders were public figures who offered direction to others, their own spiritual struggles remained with them and proved to be beneficial both to them and to others. Their stories will provide us with common themes that can be beneficial for those going through the disturbing experience of feeling forsaken by God.
Case Study 1
 In 1968 Malcolm Muggeridge, a British writer-turned-filmmaker, traveled to India to visit a Macedonian woman named Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu. She was a Catholic sister working in India, and he went to make a film about her. It should be noted that Muggeridge was an outspoken atheist. His time with Bojaxhiu, though, gave him more than images for his film. Not only did he observe her dedication to serving those around her, but he also received a letter from her in 1970 addressing doubts that he had expressed. She wrote:
 Your longing for God is so deep and yet He keeps Himself away from you…He must be forcing Himself to do so — because He loves you so much — the personal love Christ has for you is infinite — The Small difficulty you have re[garding] His Church is finite — Overcome the finite with the infinite.
 Apparently the infinite did overcome the finite because Muggeridge became a strong Christian apologist. He converted to Catholicism in 1982. His 1969 film about Bojaxhiu, entitled Something Beautiful for God, as well as a 1971 book by the same title, made Bojaxhiu world-famous. However, most people do not know her by the name she was given as a child. They know her by the name she took at age 21 when she took her vows to become a nun: Teresa. According to a Gallup poll from December 1999, Bojaxhiu, better known affectionately as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, was voted as “the most widely admired person of the 20th century.” On September 5, 1997, Mother Teresa, the woman famous for her heart, died of heart failure.
 On September 4, 2007, in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of her death, a new book by her was posthumously published entitled Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta.” This book, however, was never one that she intended for the public to read. In fact, the book is a collection of her private letters to her spiritual advisors. In these letters a new image of her appears – an image that is quite different than the one caught on Muggeridge’s film. In one place, she writes, “If you only knew what goes on within my heart. – Sometimes the pain is so great that I feel as if everything will break. The smile is a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains.” For over 66 years, Mother Teresa struggled with intense doubt, despair, and darkness. Since she died at age 87, that means the despair began when she entered the convent and, aside from a five-week break in October 1958, it never left her.. This woman, who told Muggeridge that God must be forcing Godself to hide from him, once wrote to one of her own advisors, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, in September 1979, “Jesus has a very special love for you…As for me – the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” She hid this pain from others, not in a hypocritical way, but in order that she might not burden them with her own suffering. Her spiritual advisors were the only ones who were aware of her inner struggles. To those she served she continued to smile as a way to ease their pain.
 After Mother Teresa died, Pope John Paul II put her on a fast track to canonization. As of this writing, Mother Teresa has already reached the stage of beatification. Given this recognition and the fast treatment she has been given, one might think that someone would publish these private letters as a deterrent to her canonization. One wonders, who would want to acknowledge as a saint someone who didn’t always feel God’s presence in her life? One person who would want to do so is Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., the man who edited and published these letters, a man who knew Mother Teresa for twenty years, and the person who is spearheading the campaign for her sainthood. In his introduction to Come Be My Light, Kolodiejchuk writes:
 With the help of her spiritual directors, [Mother Teresa] progressively came to grasp that her painful inner experience was an essential part of living out her mission. It was a sharing in the Passion of Christ on the Cross – with a particular emphasis on the thirst of Jesus as the mystery of His longing for the love and salvation of every human person. Eventually she recognized her mysterious suffering as an imprint of Christ’s Passion on her soul. She was living the mystery of Calvary – the Calvary of Jesus and the Calvary of the poor.
 Rather than argue against her sainthood, Kolodiejchuk published her letters as a way to argue for her sainthood.
 However, Mother Teresa herself would likely be uncomfortable with the kind of attention her letters are now giving her. She always wanted the attention to be on God instead of her. For example, one of her spiritual advisors, Father Joseph Neuner, once explained she gave him an “explicit request to burn these pages after I had read them.” In fact, Kolodiejchuk even notes that she requested three times to Archbishop Ferdinand Périer, another of her spiritual advisors, that he destroy her letters too. Clearly, he refused to do so. In his introduction, Kolodiejchuk writes words that are likely similar to those of her spiritual directors for why they did not destroy her letters.
 It is my hope that many will be inspired by Mother Teresa’s heroic living of her mission of “[lighting] the light of those in darkness” and will carry it on according to their own call and possibilities. In those parts of our hearts where darkness still abides, may a bright light shine through her example, her love, and now also her intercession from heaven.
 Through these letters, those who read them will not only learn of the conversations Mother Teresa had with her advisors, but also of her strong faith in God in spite of her darkness. Kolodiejchuk writes, “What mattered to her was that she loved God, whether or not He granted her the consolation and joy of His felt presence.” Even in the midst of her despair, she continued to serve the people in Calcutta, and continued to see herself as only an instrument for God. “Very often I feel like a little pencil in God’s Hands,” she said. “He does the writing, He does the thinking, He does the movement, I have only to be the pencil.”
Case Study 2
 Like overhearing the conversations of Mother Teresa with her advisors, history has also left us another set of conversations from which we can learn much about facing doubt and spiritual struggles. These conversations took place between Martin Luther and his students between 1525 and 1546. Many of Luther’s students took notes of these conversations and in 1566, twenty years after Luther’s death, his student John Aurifaber published the notes, calling them, Table Talks. In explaining why he published these notes, Aurifaber wrote:
 I have decided to share it through publication with the Christian church, which can be strengthened by such teaching, can use it with blessing as crumbs fallen from Luther’s table, and with it can satisfy the spiritual hunger and thirst of men’s [sic.] souls. For under no circumstances should one allow such table conversations of Luther, which deal with lofty spiritual matters, to be lost. On the contrary, they must be esteemed and valued because one may receive all sorts of instruction and consolation from them.
 On the night of November 30, 1531, one anonymous guest spoke to Luther about how he was in deep spiritual despair and how even the Gospel was not providing him comfort. According to a student named Veit Dietrich, Luther replied by first telling the man of his own struggles in his early years of being a monk.
 When I was in spiritual distress, a gentle word would restore my spirit. Sometimes my confessor [John von Staupitz] said to me when I repeatedly discussed silly sins with him, ‘You are a fool. God is not incensed against you, but you are incensed against God. God is not angry with you, but you are angry with God.’ This was magnificently said, although it was before the light of the gospel
 Luther also told him that he still experienced struggles, and then shared with him the following humorous way he uses to chase the devil away:
 Although I know this [that it is good to be with others as a way to help depression], I am of a different mind ten times in the course of a day. But I resist the devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away. When he tempts me with silly sins I say, “Devil, yesterday I broke wind too. Have you written it down on your list?”
 Elsewhere in the conversation, Luther gives the man some serious words, saying that, just as Christ accepted the thief on the cross and Paul after his persecution of Christians, so too does Christ accept us. Therefore, we have no reason to despair since that acceptance is promised. However, Luther knows that we still do despair, so he goes on to say that our despair is connected to the Old Adam / Old Eve (the sinful nature) within each of us. We are unable to believe completely and that is why we struggle. Thankfully, God’s acceptance of us is not dependent upon our certitude. Yet we continue to be sinful creatures, and so we doubt and experience darkness.
 Luther’s own struggles with despair began when he entered the monastery. In an undated account of a table talk from the spring of 1533, Dietrich records Luther sharing these thoughts.
 I often made confession to Staupitz,. . . about really serious sins. He said, ‘I don’t understand you.’ This was real consolation! Afterward when I went to another confessor I had the same experience. In short, no confessor wanted to have anything to do with me. Then I thought, ‘Nobody has this temptation except you,’ and I became as dead as a corpse. Finally, when I was sad and downcast, Staupitz started to talk to me at table and asked, ‘Why are you so sad?’ I replied, ‘Alas, what am I to do!’ Then he said, ‘You don’t know how necessary this is for you; otherwise nothing good will come of you.’ He himself didn’t understand [what he said], for he thought I was too learned and that I would become haughty if I remained free from spiritual trials. But I took his words to be like Paul’s, ‘A thorn was given me in the flesh to keep me from being too elated; my power is made perfect in weakness’ [II Cor. 12:7, 9]. Therefore I accepted his words as the voice of the Holy Spirit comforting me.
 Luther saw his own spiritual struggles as a gift, like Paul’s thorn in the flesh. It prevented him from becoming full of himself or thinking that he was somehow immune to temptation and the devil. Once Luther realized that God’s grace is given freely and not based on merit, he became more comfortable living in the tension of faith and darkness at the same time. That tension was reflected in his understanding of the human being as simul iustus et peccator (simultaneously saint and sinner).
Case Study 3
 Another religious leader who struggled with the tension of being saint and sinner was Augustine of Hippo – the man upon whom Luther’s monastic order was based. In his classic autobiography Confessions (written around 397 CE), Augustine writes the story of his life from infancy to his conversion and the death of his mother, Monica. During the course of his life, Augustine wrestled with trying to find his identity. In one moving story from his childhood, he recalls how he caved to peer-pressure and stole some pears with his friends. He writes, “Yet had I been alone I would not have done it – I remember my state of mind to be thus at the time – alone I would never have done it. Therefore my love in that act was to be associated with the gang in whose company I did it.” In his young adult years, he struggled with his sexuality and how he was “in love with love.” Despite the fervent prayers of his mother that he be a Christian, Augustine also spent much time traveling from one school of religious thought to another. He was thoroughly soaked in Neo-Platonic thought, and eventually his skepticism of other kinds of thinking soon turned to his own way of thinking. In his desperate search for meaning, he began to question himself. He writes the following about his struggle,
 I prattled on as if I were expert, but unless I had sought your way in Christ our Savior (Titus 1:4), I would have been not expert but expunged. I began to want to give myself airs as a wise person. I was full of my punishment, but I shed no tears of penitence. Worse still, I was puffed up with knowledge (1 Cor 8:1). Where was the charity which builds on the foundation of humility which is Christ Jesus? When would the Platonist books have taught me that?
 It would be tempting to say that Augustine’s struggle with God ended when he was baptized. However, his struggle continued in the very writing of Confessions. Throughout the entire book Augustine addresses God directly. Yet he knows that he is consciously writing a book to be read by others. He admits that “by this book I confess to you what I now am, not what I once was.” (emphasis added) As he wrote Book 10 of Confessions, Augustine admits that his current struggles are more important than those recounted in the first nine autobiographical books. One of these struggles is wondering why anyone would care to read his book. He writes:
 Why then should I be concerned for human readers to hear my confessions? It is not they who are going to “heal my sickness” (Ps 102:3). The human race is inquisitive about other people’s lives, but negligent to correct their own. Why do they demand to hear from me what I am when they refuse to hear from you what they are? And when they hear me talking about myself, how can they know if I am telling the truth, when no one “knows what is going on in a person except the human spirit which is within” (1 Cor 2:11)? But if they were to hear about themselves from you, they could not say, “The Lord is lying.” To hear you speaking about oneself is to know oneself. Moreover, anyone who knows himself and says, “That is false” must be a liar. But “love believes all things” (1 Cor 13:7), at least among those love has bonded to itself and made one. I also, Lord, so make my confession to you that I may be heard by people to whom I cannot prove that my confession is true. But those whose ears are opened by love believe me.
 After he has completed his autobiography, the confession of his lifelong struggle to find himself, he then asks, “Why would anyone care?” His answer is love. “[T]hose whose ears are opened by love believe me.” What is this love? It is that which points out God speaking to one about oneself. In other words, Augustine hopes that human readers will read his book and believe what he has written because in it they can hear God speaking to them about their own lives. By reading his Confessions we can hear God speaking to us about ourselves.
 The cases of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, and Saint Augustine are not
isolated, rather they are united by six common threads.
These threads can be applied in our own
lives as we try to understand the tension between a life of service to God’s
call and the spiritual struggles that often accompany such a life.
 First, in each of these case studies, someone looked to the religious leader for guidance regarding their own spiritual struggles. In the case of Mother Teresa, it was Malcolm Muggeridge, the filmmaker. For Martin Luther, it was the anonymous man with the spiritual crisis at his table talk on November 30, 1531. For Saint Augustine, it’s the readers of his Confessions.
 Second, each of these figures also looked to someone else to receive guidance and help from them. In Mother Teresa’s case, it was Father van der Peet, Archbishop Périer, and Father Neuner, among others. For Luther, his listening ear was his confessor, Staupitz. For Augustine, it was God as his entire book is written to God.
 Third, their dealings with despair were recorded in text. Mother Teresa wrote her letters to her spiritual advisors. Luther’s students recorded his conversations with them in the Table Talks. Augustine wrote his words in his Confessions.
 Fourth, these words were all distributed for the very same reason. Kolodiejchuk collected and published Mother Teresa’s letters so that “many will be inspired by Mother Teresa’s heroic living of her mission of ‘[lighting] the light of those in darkness’ and will carry it on according to their own call and possibilities.” Luther’s table talks were published by Aurifaber because “one may receive all sorts of instruction and consolation from them.” Augustine hopes that his human readers “hear about themselves from [God]” by reading his story and that “[t]he love in them believes me.” In each of these cases, the writing was distributed so that others may receive benefit from it.
 Fifth, none of them relinquished their calling to be spiritual leaders. Although Mother Teresa admitted that she was in darkness, she still chose to remain in Calcutta and serve the people there for 49 years. Luther, despite being “of a different mind ten times in the course of a day,” continued to teach and preach in Germany, building the church he cared about so much. Augustine wrote “My Lord, every day my conscience makes confession, relying on the hope of your mercy as more to be trusted than its own innocence”  (emphasis added). As he continued to trust in God’s mercy, he became a source of consolation and guidance to others.
 Finally, God remained faithful to them even in the midst of their struggle. Although each of them at times questioned whether God was actually present in their lives, they also believed that the promise of God’s faithfulness was not going to be broken. Therefore, they were able to be faithful to the call given to them by God, because they knew how important it was.
 By using these six common threads, we can now look at our own lives, especially those of us who have been called to be religious leaders, and see how the models of Mother Teresa, Luther, and Augustine are helpful to follow. In the first thread, it is clear that by virtue of our role as religious leaders, people look to us for guidance. In the second case, we also must make sure that we have at least one person who will be our confidant and advisor. In the third case regarding the textual recording of our struggles, perhaps we do that now by writing in journals or diaries. If we are teachers, our students take notes of our lectures in class. Also, for those of us who use email, we already have a textual record of our lives in that regard too. Regarding the fourth point of having others read about our struggles, some of us would probably be uncomfortable exposing our vulnerability to others we do not know, and so, if we have a written account of our struggles, we do not share it (like Mother Teresa). For others of us, if we have had an influential teacher who shared his own doubts with us, we may want the rest of the world to know about how that sharing helped us (like Luther’s students). Some of us, though, are so comfortable in sharing our thoughts and sorrows with others that an entire culture of online blogging has emerged to do so. On blogs, we can post anything about ourselves for anyone with internet access to read. Do we post simply in order to get our thoughts written down – or do we post in the hopes that it will be beneficial for others to read (like Augustine)? Fifth, whether we have or share written records, we also continue to declare that we have been called by God, even when we struggle with doubt. Finally, our following the call is based upon the faithfulness of the One who has called us, whether or not we always experience it.
 It is important to note in these six threads that the odd numbered ones are about giving and the even numbered ones are about receiving. In other words, the odd numbered threads point out that the religious leaders gave guidance to others, there is a textual record given by these leaders, and they each gave of themselves in following a call. The even numbered threads illustrate that the religious leaders were receiving guidance from someone else, others received their words as a source of consolation and inspiration, and God continued to receive the glory from the dedicated service by these leaders.
 All of us in the church – whether we are “professionals” or “volunteers” – are called and in that call we are both givers and receivers. We cannot simply be givers, especially if we are “professionals”. It is so easy to see a pastor, for example, as one who only counsels others, who gives words of wisdom, and who faithfully follows a call. We must remember that pastors too need to be receivers who seek guidance from others, who need words of comfort, and who need to remember that there is One who accepts them even in the midst of their doubts and spiritual struggles.
 In conclusion, we have seen that even highly admired and respected public religious leaders – like Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, and Saint Augustine – have spiritual struggles and doubts, not unlike those who look to them for spiritual guidance and live out their callings not as professional ministers but as private individuals in their daily lives. Hearing about the times of darkness that spiritual leaders have had to face could give comfort by showing that all of us that we are not alone in our spiritual struggles, whether we are feeling inadequate and unsure of ourselves, or having to go through the experience of feeling like God is absent. Therefore, for those of us who serve as professional religious leaders, it is appropriate and beneficial for us to admit our darkness to ourselves and to others. Not only will it show others that we, professional religious leaders, are human too, but it will also show others that doubts and spiritual struggles are part of the spiritual journey and do not disqualify them from remaining faithful to their own callings.
Kurt Lammi serves as pastor at St Paul Lutheran Church on Dog Leg Road in Dayton, OH.
“Mother Teresa,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007).
 Mother Teresa: The Nobel Peace Prize 1979 – Biography from Nobel Lectures, Peace 1971-1980, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1979/teresa-bio.html (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007).
 Some sources list Mother Teresa’s birth name as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. However, in the recently published book Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, a book of her private letters, the editor – Brian Kolodiejchuk – indicates that her baptismal name was “Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu.” This paper will follow his practice of using her baptismal name. (Mother Teresa Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. (Doubleday, New York, 2007) 364.)
 I recognize that the language used in the quoted passage is not inclusive, but the original wording in which it was recorded or translated has been kept in order to preserve the person’s voice.
 David Van Biema, “Mother Teresa’s Secret” Time Aug 23, 2007, 5. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1655415-6,00.html Accessed on Sep 12, 2007.
 She chose her name in honor of Saint Teresa of Lisieux who was the patron saint of missionaries. (“Mother Teresa: A Profile” CNN 1997 http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9709/mother.teresa/profile/index.html (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007.)
 Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallup's_List_of_Widely_Admired_People (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007).
 “Biography for Mother Teresa,” http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0609336/bio (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007).
 Mother Teresa Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta” edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C. (Doubleday, New York, 2007).
 “Come, be My light” was the phrase she heard Jesus speak to her when she was called. (Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light, 44.)
 The shortened title of this book is Mother Teresa, but it is referred to here as Come Be My Light to avoid confusion.
 This could mean that Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul” is the longest on record. St Paul of the Cross, a mystic from the 18th century, experienced a dark night of the soul that lasted 45 years, but it eventually ended. Van Biema, David. “Mother Teresa’s Secret” Time Aug 23, 2007, 5.
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1655415-6,00.html (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007).
 Mother Teresa to Father van der Peet, September 22, 1979 as quoted in Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light, 288.
 Don Lattin, “Living Saint: Mother Teresa's Fast Track to Canonization,” San Francisco Chronicle (October 12, 2003), http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/10/12/MN147328.DTL Accessed on Sep 12, 2007.
 According to the Vatican website this occurred on October 19, 2003, http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20031019_index_madre-teresa_en.html (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007).
 In addition to transcribing the letters he also provides the context for the letters and the historical narrative that ties them together.
 This is a reference to a line written by Mother Teresa herself: “If I ever become a Saint – I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” (Mother M Teresa, M.C., to Father Joseph Neuner, S.J., March 6, 1962 as quoted in Kolodiejchuk, ibid., iv.)
 Martin Luther “Table Talk” in Luther's works, vol. 54 , J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, eds., (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1999).
 See the critical edition of the Aurifaber version in Karl Eduard Förstemann and Heinrich Ernst Bindseil, eds., D. Martin Luther’s Tischreden oder Colloquia, … nach Aurifaber’s erster Ausgabe … herausgegeben und erläutert (4 vols.; Berlin: Gebauer’sche Buchhandlung, 1844–1848), IV, XXII, XXIII. As quoted in ibid., xii-xiii.
 Saint Augustine, Confessions, II.viii (16), trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford University Press, New York, 1998) 33.
 Ibid., 180.
 She also shared her struggles with Father Celeste Van Exem, Reverend (later Cardinal) Lawrence Picachy, and Bishop William Curlin. (Van Biema, 3.)
 However, Augustine also did have flesh-and-blood support in the form of his advisor Ambrose and, later, even Monica.
Mother Teresa http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa (Accessed on Sep 12, 2007).
 However, email records might not be as readily accessible for future generations as are handwritten letters.
 An important difference must be noted between blogs and our three examples. In our examples, none of the written accounts were shared with the person’s followers at the time the person was going through the spiritual crisis. In blogs, the sharing of the moment occurs when the moment occurs. In all three of our examples, the sharing occurred years after the event. Careful pastoral discretion is needed when deciding the right time to share one’s own spiritual struggles with a parishioner.